UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has unveiled a 1.57-billion pounds rescue package of emergency grants and cheap loans for arts, culture and heritage industries to help them weather the impact of coronavirus lockdown.
Thousands of organisations across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema will be able to access the funding boost put in place on Sunday night.
“Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture,” said Sunak.
“That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for,” he said.
The Indian-origin finance minister indicated that many of Britain’s cultural and heritage institutions have already received financial assistance to see them through the pandemic including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the Coronavirus Job Retention or furlough scheme, introduced by him earlier this year at the height of the pandemic.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said the new package represents the “biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture” and will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic.
“From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country,” said UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down,” he said.
The arts industry had been lobbying for support for some time and many agree that this package would help them stay afloat while their doors remain closed under the lockdown restrictions still in place for most venues. Funding to restart paused projects will also help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors.
The new package will be available across the country, including 33 million pounds to Northern Ireland, 97 million pounds to Scotland and 59 million pounds to Wales and ensure the future of many multi billion-pound industries are secured.
“Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast growing creative industries,” said UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden.
“I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment,” he said.
Of the total sum, 1.15 billion pounds support will go for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans, made up of 270 million pounds of repayable finance and 880 million pounds grants.
Targeted support of 100 million pounds will go for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
Capital investment of 120 million pounds will be available to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England, which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Decisions on awards of the different funding will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector, including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
The government said the repayable finance, to be set out in the coming weeks, will be issued on “generous terms” tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable.
“This is welcome news for the museum sector, both in the scale of funding and as a strategic commitment to our role in the life of the country,” said Sir Ian Blatchford, Chair of the National Museums Directors Council.
Julian Bird, Chief Executive, Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, added: “Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible.
“Our industry’s united ambition is to be able to play its vital role in the nation’s economic and social recovery and this investment will allow us to do so.”